Chapter 1

My eyes opened at the sound of someone throwing a rock against my bedroom window. I shot up in bed and looked around the pitch black room lit only by the hot pink comforter as the sound hit again. Mom had to take my night light today of all days when there wasn’t even the moon outside. There it was again, and it was definitely a rock. I slipped out of bed and went to the window. Adam was hanging in the tree next to my window, and in his hand was a glowing jar.

I glanced over my shoulder at my closed bedroom door, my ears straining to see if Mom or Dad heard the sound of the rock. My heart hammered in my chest as I lifted the window making sure it didn’t squeak.

 “What the hell are you doing?” I asked, my voice a harsh whisper against the silence of the night.

“I heard your mom made you get rid of the night light,” Adam replied, shoving the jar into my hands. I took it and narrowed my eyes at him as he swung in the window.

“Who told you that?” I asked with my cheeks burning. I was glad for the darkness for once—because Adam couldn’t see how much his presence affected me.

“Bobby! Who else?”

“What a jerk!” I said. I watched as Adam shrugged and pulled two more jars from his backpack. “I couldn’t fit them all in. I didn’t realize how hard it was to climb a tree with one arm!”

“What’s in these?” I asked as Adam set them on the ground, and the room began to dance with the light. Thankfully, my cheeks had returned to a natural hue, but as soon as his eyes rose I felt the burn rising, and I had to look away.

Adam was in my room in the middle of the night.

“Fireflies,” he replied, and my eyes snapped back towards him watching as his thin lips turned into that crooked smile.

My jaw dropped as I took a step forward. “You put what in these?”

Adam’s brow furrowed over his face.

“I spent an hour catching fireflies for you,” he said, and I watched as his throat rose and fell as he swallowed. “Don’t worry—I poked holes in the top.”

He moved closer to me, so I could smell his cologne—the one I’d bought him for his sixteenth birthday a few days earlier. I tried to hide the deep breath I took of him as he moved my fingers across the metal top, so I could feel the holes he poked there. He smirked at me again with his fingers still over mine.  I could feel the calluses from playing guitar; ones I’d felt a thousand times before as he leaned over me and tried his best to teach me how to strum.

 “You know I’d never hurt your precious fairies, Riv.”

I couldn’t help but giggle. The heat rushed up to my face again, and it only worsened when I realized not only was Adam in my room, he snuck in to save me from the dark.

“Thank you,” I said. “But how can I keep them?”

Adam shrugged. “I did think of that after I’d caught them.”

He reached into his backpack and pulled out a butterfly with what looked like liquid in its abdomen. He went to the outlet by the bed and plugged it in.

“It goes off in the morning—so your mom will just think it’s one of those scenty things you chicks love so much.” He looked over his shoulder before sitting on my bed. “The real issue is what to do with the fireflies now.”

My eyes moved from his to the window he came through. “Let them go?”

I watched Adam’s eyes flash over mine, and I knew he was coming up with some devilish plan—one I’d go along with, like always. I never could say no to him or his brother, Bobby, for that matter.  He turned and grabbed a few of the stuffed animals from the chair by the bed and stuck them under the sheets, so it looked like there was a body.

“What are you thinking?” I asked, my breathing quickening as he came over and took the jars I wasn’t holding and put them back in his bag. He then took the one I was holding and put it in the spot where the night light had been.

“It would’ve been a lot easier to carry the night light!” he said as he slipped it over his shoulders and ducked out the window.

I followed him and leaned out the window. “Adam!”

He sat on the limb below holding his hand out to me. “I promise I won’t let you fall,” he said, and I couldn’t deny the rush that streamed through my veins.

Adam would be the death of me. I followed suit and slid down onto the limb into his arms. They wrapped protectively around me, keeping me from falling, and my eyes wandered from his chest up to his brown eyes. They glowed under the light of the moon as he smiled down at me, and I could feel my pulse quickening.

“One section at a time, just follow my lead,” he said, and before I could respond he was shimming down the tree.

I took a deep breath before proceeding, but when I was at the last limb, I looked down at him. I closed my eyes as the ground spun and my stomach twirled.

“Adam, it’s too far!” I said as quietly as possible.

“I’ll catch you!”

I pried my lids open as I shook my head and he nodded his.

“River!”

“Fine!” I replied as I closed my eyes and let go.

“See?” Adam said as his arms wrapped around my waist.

“Fine,” I mumbled, unable to hide the smile that had crept onto my face from the adrenaline rush. His hand slipped easily into mine, and my heart faltered for a moment before my gaze locked on his.

“We should go to where I got them—the lake.”

“What if we get caught?”

Adam raised his eyebrows. “Not going to happen, Riv.”

“You’ll get your new car taken away!”

“Bobby sneaks out all the time, and he never gets in trouble!” Adam said, and we both scoffed.

Bobby was the golden boy—he could do whatever he wanted. Adam was not—he was the boy all the girls wanted, including me—but he always had a wall around his heart.

“He’s older than you,” I replied.

“Two years, big whoop!”

I stared at him, my chest rising to my chin and he wriggled his eyebrows. There was no convincing him otherwise. Both Beckerson boys were stubborn, especially when it came to me—their best friend. I didn’t want him to get in trouble again because of me, but that smile was melting me.

I looked up at the star-filled sky and nodded. “Let’s get this over with!”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Adam replied as he handed me the backpack and leaned forward so that I could jump on his back.

“Go, Adam!” I laughed as he ran forward. The worry faded as his arms tightened around my thighs.

Ten Years Later

I yawned as I closed the laptop and blinked at the television clock – 10:00 PM – I hadn’t even eaten yet. I began to stand, but dropped back down on the couch when I heard the giggle from across the hall; it was accompanied by a laugh I knew all too well, and the slam of the door.  I opened my eyes and looked at the ceiling of my apartment. I should have been used to hearing Adam making other girls laugh like that by now, but I wasn’t, and I knew I never would be. I should have stopped caring years before.  I should never have fallen in love with my best friend.

My hand flew to my chest as I jolted back to reality with the sound of the wood door vibrating as a fist knocked up against it. I took a deep breath to calm the now frantic beating of my heart before standing and slowly opening the door.

“Hey,” Bobby said, his head leaning against the firm curve of his arm. “Can I spend the night here? I can’t stand listening to his raucous lovemaking again.”

“I was about to see if you wanted to split a pizza with cheesy breadsticks with me,” I answered, signaling for him to come in.

I shut the door, and Bobby’s frame towered over me, arms crossed, and his lips tipped downwards in displeasure. “What’s wrong?”

I shook my head, and he reached out to put his hands on my hips. His eyes were tender as he lowered his head. “Pizza and cheesy breadsticks, Riv? I know something is wrong.”

This close and my heart remained slow and steady as I stared up into his blue eyes. It reminded me it would be so much easier if I had fallen in love with the other brother; the one towering over me like he wanted to kiss me.

I pulled away and rolled my shoulders. “I’m fine.”

“That’s it, isn’t it? You still love Adam?” Bobby asked as I walked over to the coffee table to grab my cell phone. I clenched my jaw as I stared at the space where he’d been standing. I admitted it years before, but from then on we only danced around the subject, mainly because I didn’t want to talk about it with him.

I avoided the L-word like I always did, turning and smiling at him. “What do you want on your pizza?”

He narrowed his eyes. “You know my toppings.”

“Hawaiian pizza it is.”

That wasn’t his toppings, but I knew he’d eat whatever I ordered without complaint.

He blinked at me several times before flopping on the couch. It groaned at his weight but somehow didn’t fold. His hockey player frame didn’t fit in much of the contemporary furniture in my place.

“Are you sure you want to sleep on the couch? Your body hangs off of it,” I said as he stretched out and his legs stuck half-way over the edge.

A smirk came to his face as he put his arms behind his head with a thought I was sure I didn’t want to know. “Where else would I sleep?” he asked.

 “I suggest we trade. I’ll take the couch, and you can take my bed,” I answered with a nod across the room to my bedroom door.

“Alright, sounds good to me.”

“Pervert,” I said under my breath as I walked past him to go to grab him a beer from the fridge.

“It’s not my fault you look like that,” he said as I handed him the drink.

I ignored him and called to the order the pizza.

“Twenty minutes,” I informed Bobby as he flipped to the hockey channel.

“So why are you alone on a Friday night?” Bobby asked as he knocked back the remainder of his beer and stood to grab another.

“You’re going to wipe me out,” I commented, avoiding the question as he closed the fridge.

He held up a can of soda. “One beer limit when I’m with you.”

“At least someone follows my rules,” I replied, smiling at him.

“You know it! I’ll always follow your rules, Riv.”

The commented was pointed, and I wondered why I couldn’t love him back. I looked over his broad, muscular, hockey player frame, messy light brown hair and sky blue eyes. He was hot; there was no denying that, but when he touched me I didn’t feel a spark. I only felt the tenderness of a friendship that began as children. Adam was so different than Bobby, yet I found myself constantly dating guys just like Bobby.

They were safe. They didn’t make my heart race or my body flush with heat from just looking at me and smiling.

“So why are you alone on Friday night?” I asked.

Bobby grabbed my arm and pulled me up before moving me onto the couch beside him.

“I’m not alone. I’m with you,” he replied, and his voice was a purr against my neck. His warm breath washed over my skin but did nothing to my insides.

I turned and smacked his chest. “Shut up!”

He winked at me before saying, “Careful, you don’t want to break your hand on my pecs!”

“You and Adam are one in the same with your cockiness,” I teased as I pulled my legs up to my chest.

“But different in so many ways,” Bobby replied as his eyes washed over me again. The comment made me swallow.

“You’re weird; you know that?” I replied as I locked my eyes on the television and pretended to be interested in it.

I was used to his half-hearted attempts at swooning me by now. He never directly came out and made any move. He just tried to nudge me gently in his favor, but the look in his eyes showed he knew it was a losing battle. There was a tease there, but it was flecked with sadness that showed in the twitch of his lips.

A knock came at the door, and our eyes unlocked from one another.

“Pizza!” Bobby cheered as he jumped up and went to the door. He pulled out his wallet just as I stood to go to my purse. He shook his head as he said, “This one’s on me. I drink half the beer you buy anyway.”

He opened the door and took the boxes of steaming food before handing the guy a twenty. A typical man nod was exchanged.

“Thanks, bro,” the pizza guy said.

“Have a good one,” Bobby replied with his voice deep.

I could never understand how both Adam and Bobby’s voices changed when they talked to someone other than me. It deepened to a gruff, manly octave that, while I didn’t understand it, I found attractive.

“You want another soda?” I asked as the smell wafted over me, and my stomach grumbled.

“Sure thing.”

“I swear to God you must have the biggest bladder on the planet,” I said as I handed him the can and sat down beside him.

“Don’t forget my appetite. You only asked me over because you’re only going to eat one piece, and you don’t want this thing to go to waste.”

“Technically, you invited yourself over.”

“I thought you were coming to ask me anyway or were you looking for Adam?”

His lips were in a smile, but I could see the muscles in his arms tensing at his question.

I put my head on his shoulder. “No, I was looking for my teddy bear of a best friend.”

I lifted my head at his still displeased look and frowned in question.

“Who’s your better best friend, Adam or me?” Bobby asked, staring at me from the corner of his eyes.

“Come on Bobby! You know it’s different with Adam.”

He nodded in defeat. “Yeah, I know.”

I knocked my shoulders against his. “Eat your pizza and shut up. Either way, your mom still hates me with the fire of a thousand burning suns.”

Bobby smirked. “That she does, especially since you’ve got both of her boys tied in knots.”

“Both of you?”

“Err…with having a best friend who’s a chick. Screws up relationships like no tomorrow.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, but he grabbed a piece of pizza and took a bite. He smiled at me with his mouth full, and I conceded, taking a slice too. If Bobby knew Adam had feelings for me, he would’ve told me long ago, wouldn’t he?

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